- 2 -it possible, therefore, that technological societies existed elsewhere in the galaxy
even before the formationof the Earth
. We should, therefore, consider a new "infective" theory, namely that a primitive form of life,was deliberately planted on the Earth by a technologically advanced society on another planet.Are there many planets which could be infected with somechance of success? It is believed, though the evidence is weak and indirect, that in the galaxy many stars, of a size notdissimilar to our Sun, have planets, on a fair fraction of whichtemperatures are suitable for a form of life based on carbonchemistry and liquid water, as ours is. Experimental studiesof the production of organic chemicals under prebioticconditions make it seem likely that a rich prebiotic soupaccumulates on a high proportion of such Earthlike planets.Unfortunately, we know next to nothing about the probabilitythat life evolves within a few billion years in such a soup,either on our own special Earth, or still less on other Earthlikeplanets.If the probability that life evolves in a suitable environment islow, we may be able to prove that we are likely to be alone inthe galaxy (Universe). If it is high, the galaxy may bepullulating with life of many different forms. At the moment,we have no means at all of knowing which of these alternatives is correct. We are thus free to postulate thatthere have been (and still are) many places in the galaxy where life could exist but that, in at least a fractionof them, after several billion years the chemical systems had not evolved to the point of self-replication andnatural selection. Such planets, if they do exist, would form an excellent breeding ground for externalmicro-organisms. Note that because many, if not all, such planets would have a reducing atmosphere theywould not be very hospitable to the higher forms of life as we know them on Earth.
The possibility that terrestrial life derives from the deliberate activity of an extraterrestrial society has oftenbeen considered in science fiction and more or less light-heartedly in a number of scientific papers. Forexample, Gold (1960) has suggested that we might have evolved from the micro-organisms inadvertentlyleft behind by some previous visitors from another planet (for example, in their garbage). Here we wish toexamine a very specific form of Directed Panspermia. Could life have started on Earth as a result of infection by microorganisms sent here deliberately by a technological society on another planet, by meansof a special long range unmanned spaceship? To show that this is not totally implausible we shall use thetheorem of detailed cosmic reversibility; if we are capable of infecting an as yet lifeless extrasolar planet,then, given that. the time was available, another technological society might well have infected our planetwhen it was still lifeless.
THE PROPOSED SPACESHIP
The spaceship would carry large samples of a number of microorganisms, each having different but simplenutritional requirements, for example blue-green algae, which could grow on CO
, and water in “sunlight".A payload of 1000kg might be made up of 10 samples each containing 10
microorganisms, or 100samples each of 10
microorganisms.It would not be necessary to accelerate the spaceship to extremely high velocities, since its time of arrivalwould not be important. The radius of our galaxy is about 10
light years, so we could infect most planetsin the galaxy within 10
yr by means of a spaceship travelling at only one-thousandth of the velocity of light several thousand stars are within a hundred light years of the Earth and could be reached within as
Figure0 An approximate timescale for theEvents discussed in this paper. To simplify theillustration, the age of the galaxy has beensomewhat arbitrarily taken as 13 x 10